Growing Online as an Artist: Erin McClean

After graduating from Falmouth University in 2017, NI based Illustrator Erin McClean moved home, not expecting to grow a huge online following on her artwork account on TikTok (gaining over 80k followers in under a year). Since then, Erin has opened her own Etsy shop, which has over 170 sales and a 5 star rating, Erin has also recently been signed with an illustration agent, she spoke to The Jumble Magazine all about her dream of becoming a children’s illustrator.

I’m Erin and I am an illustrator. I’ve always wanted to illustrate children’s books, so I chose to study Illustration at Falmouth University in Cornwall. I graduated in 2017, and since then I have been working on my portfolio and recently opened an Etsy shop (Erin McClean Illustration). When I’m not drawing (or doing all the admin that comes with having your own business!) I love to read. My goal is to be a published children’s book illustrator.

My work is narrative based with a focus on children’s illustration. I love when people tell me my art makes them feel nostalgic, that’s the best compliment ever!

I mostly get inspiration from other illustrators. There are so many amazing, clever illustrators out there who are making gorgeous children’s books. I have a huge collection of children’s books that I’m always looking to for inspiration. One of my favourite illustrators is Shirley Hughes. I’m also a huge Studio Ghibli fan! 

Now more than ever, an online presence is really important for illustrators as that’s how a lot of art directors and agents find new artists. But you definitely don’t need a huge following, my agent contacted me off Instagram when I had around 7K followers. Social media is also great for keeping up with other illustrators. The kidlit community is great and super supportive and I’ve made loads of friends in this industry. Also, having an online presence on TikTok and Instagram (both @eriberart) has brought a lot of traffic to my Etsy shop which is awesome. I only opened my shop a few months ago and I’ve been shocked by the amount of support I’ve received online! I’m currently working on expanding my product range beyond art prints and postcards.

At the same time social media can be very time consuming. I think it’s important to take breaks, and to stop yourself from falling into the habit of creating content exclusively for social media, or constantly following social media trends and challenges. I try to make sure that every new illustration I create has a purpose and fills a gap in my portfolio.

When it comes to my artwork and what makes it unique it is pretty hard to put my finger on one specific thing. I think I’m good at capturing emotions and genuine interactions between characters. My favourite thing to draw is kids in different scenarios, I love to try and capture that magical essence of childhood.

Like everyone, the past year and a bit has had an impact on my creativity. I work a full-time (non-art related) job so, in a sense, working from home has given me more time to work on my art as I don’t have to commute. But it’s also taken it’s toll on my creativity. I think to create good work you need to fill your ‘creative bank’. One way that I do this is by watching movies and tv shows or reading books, but nothing seems to beat the experience of travelling to new places, which I can’t wait to do again.

Follow Erin on Instagram and TikTok, and be sure to check out her store on Etsy for a range of stickers and art prints.

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